Apple vendors in Iran scoff at US sanctions

Vendors of Apple products in Iran on Saturday scoffed at US media reports that the consumer technology giant was banning US sales to customers of Iranian background, pointing out that iPads and iPhones are widely available in Tehran.

One salesman who gave only his first name, Hossein, told AFP that he had sold 40 iPhones the day before, and explained that prices for Apple items in Iran were only around $50-$60 more than in the United States.

Traders were easily getting around US sanctions on the export of popular electronic items to Iran, he said.

"All Apple products are smuggled into Iran. Before, it was mainly from Dubai and European countries, but now we can get all we need from Iraq," he said. "We have all of Apple's products."

Iranian media noted reports from the United States that a young American woman of Iranian descent, who was speaking Farsi with her uncle, was barred from buying an iPad from an Apple store in the US state of Georgia. She reportedly wanted to send the iPad to Iran as a gift to cousin.

That falls foul of a US ban on sending tech products, such as computers and satellite telephones, to Iran without authorisation from the US Treasury Department.

But salesmen in Tehran said the restriction is pointless, given the unimpeded offer of Apple and other US brand electronics. Several shops are even dressed up to look like official Apple Stores.

In the United States, the National Iranian American Council issued a statement calling on Apple "to take immediate steps" to make sure the US sanctions do not discriminate against Iranian-Americans and Iranians in the United States.

When asked about the issue last Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said there was "no US policy or law that prohibits Apple or any other company from selling products in the United States to anybody who’s intending to use the product in the United States, including somebody of Iranian descent or an Iranian citizen."

But, she added: "If you do want to take high-technology goods to Iran, you need a licence."

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